I`m Still Right Here Giving Blood Keeping Faith
There are probably a vast array of pretentious song lyrics which could portray the current malaise the Chairboys find themselves in equally as well. An encouraging start to the season has now faded into a losing run of four games all of which have passed without a single goal being scored. All our hopes now turn to an away trip to Birkenhead to face Tranmere Rovers. Who`d take a goal-less draw if offered them now?
Given the distance between the two clubs we had absolutely nothing to do with each other until the 21st century. Birkenhead can of course be found on the Wirral Peninsula on the banks of the River Mersey. Agriculture played a crucial role until the 19th century when it became known as a centre for shipbuilding. It became physically linked to the City of Liverpool by an underground railway in 1886.
The Town is also the birthplace of actors and performers Glenda Jackson, Patricia Routledge and Paul O`Grady. Presenter and Commentator Ray Stubbs was also born in Wallasey whilst the seminal indie band Half Man Half Biscuit also hail from the Town. All of the aforementioned "celebrities" are followers of Rovers with the latter heroically turning down an appearance on TV music show The Tube due to a clash with a game.
There is a sporting connection between our two towns with A Question of Sport Captain and ego-maniac Matt Dawson being born in Birkenhead before moving down to Buckinghamshire to be educated at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. One dreads to think what he`d done to deserve that kind of punishment.
Tranmere Rovers were formed as Belmont F.C. by two groups of cricketers in the same year as North Town Wanderers (1884). Inside twelve months they had changed their name to Tranmere Rovers and after playing in the Lancashire Combination they joined the newly-created Football League Third Division North in 1921.
They spent many decades in the bottom two divisions with perhaps the most noteworthy event being then-manager Dave Russell`s (no, not that one) attempt to became some kind of sixties Gok Wan. He decided to ditch the clubs` traditional colours of blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks in favour of an all-white strip in 1962. The occasional relapse aside they`ve stuck with it since.
The clubs` greatest success came under the guidance of Everton fan Peter Johnson (as the kids of today like to say, go figure!). He bought the club out of administration in 1987 and with manager John King they took Rovers from the bottom of the fourth division to the second division play-offs inside five years. They went on to lose in three successful play-off semi-finals in the early 1990`s as promotion to land of milk and honey eluded them.
Rovers were relegated to the third tier of English football in 2001 which meant they would finally have the honour of meeting the Wanderers for the very first time. There have only been four players to have represented both clubs. Goalkeeper Ian Feuer played a single friendly for the Blues in 2002 whilst the attacking trio of Bas Savage, Delroy Facey and Iffy Onoura would strike little fear in any defence.
The Chairboys have won one, draw one and lost twice in four previous clashes at Prenton Park. That first ever encounter came in November 2001 during the post F.A. Cup run glow which still had that Ready Brek feel. An orange-shirted Darren Currie levelled in the first half to seal a 1-1 draw that was achieved with ten-men after midfielder Steve Brown was sent-off on the hour.
Eighteen months later and that glow had well and truly gone. It resembled more of a cold bowl of porridge and with Sanchez having gone wibble it was starting to feel like a prison sentence for the fans. The side were still a point or two short of the magic 50-point mark and had conceded four goals in each of their last three games.
In their yellow shirts they put in an improved defensive display on the Wirral. Just a single goal was conceded but sadly it was the only one of the game and it came in the 90th minute when a free-kick was touched past goalkeeper Frank Talia by Gary Jones.
Just over five months later the two sides were again in action at Prenton Park and both were already struggling against relegation despite it still only being September. The Chairboys hadn`t won since the opening day of the season and fell behind four minutes before the break when Eugene Dadi headed home
Substitute Andy Bell thumped home a leveller with just 12 minutes remaining and within two minutes striker Richard Harris wasted a golden opportunity to give the visitors the lead when he shot straight at Rovers goalkeeper John Achterberg. Two minutes later defender Danny Senda lifted the ball over Talia and into his own net to give the hosts a 2-1 victory.
Within an hour the club released a statement which told delighted fans that Sanchez had "departed" the club. The sense of relief was palpable although it soon transpired that Chairman Ivor Beeks had actually told him he was sacked on the previous Wednesday yet bizarrely agreed to allow him to take charge of the next two games in an attempt to leave the club on a positive note.
Of course that didn`t prevent him from indulging in one last two-fingered gesture to the supporters, choosing to switch the already packed first choice kit for the red change one. Shame for him that that salute included twice as many fingers as league victories achieved so far that season. The Blues were relegated at the end of that season and it was more than six and a half years before the two sides clashed again.
This time it was Gary Waddock`s men who recorded a tremendous 3-0 victory at Prenton Park on a barmy April evening which gave false hope to supporters that an incredible escape from relegation could be on the cards. The visitors dominated the proceedings and took the lead on the quarter hour when striker Alex Revell fired home after Gareth Ainsworth`s effort had been blocked.
Revell bagged himself another with just over twenty minutes remaining following a mistake from home goalkeeper Luke Daniels and Matt Bloomfield sealed the three points with a late header from a Kevin Betsy cross. The win even came with the team finally wearing their first choice colours against the white shirted Rovers.
I shall conclude this little-read traipse through our yesterdays by indulging in a return to those lyrics I started with. They seem appropriate in the circumstances…
"But I'm still right here
Giving blood, Keeping faith.
And I'm still right here.
I`ll wait it out,
I`m gonna wait it out,
I must keep reminding myself of this.
If there were no rewards to reap,
No loving embrace to see me through,
This tedious path I've chosen here,
I certainly would've walked away by now.
But I`m gonna wait it out."
"All that`s left are memories"